Friday 12 January, 2018

Psalm 80

For the director of music. A psalm of Asaph to the tune of “The Lilies of the Covenant.” 1 Shepherd of Israel, hear us. You lead the people of Joseph like a flock. You sit on your throne between the cherubim. Show your glory 2 to the people of Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Call your strength into action. Come and save us. 3 God, make us new again. May you be pleased with us. Then we will be saved. 4 Lord God, you rule over all. How long will you be angry? Will you be angry with your people even when they pray to you? 5 You have given us tears as our food. You have made us drink tears by the bowlful. 6 You have let our neighbors mock us. Our enemies laugh at us. 7 God who rules over all, make us new again. May you be pleased with us. Then we will be saved. 8 You brought Israel out of Egypt. Israel was like a vine. After you drove the nations out of Canaan, you planted the vine in their land. 9 You prepared the ground for it. It took root and spread out over the whole land. 10 The mountains were covered with its shade. The shade of its branches covered the mighty cedar trees. 11 Your vine sent its branches out all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. They reached as far as the Euphrates River. 12 Why have you broken down the walls around your vine? Now all who pass by it can pick its grapes. 13 Wild pigs from the forest destroy it. Insects from the fields feed on it. 14 God who rules over all, return to us! Look down from heaven and see us! Watch over your vine. 15 Guard the root you have planted with your powerful right hand. Take care of the branch you have raised up for yourself. 16 Your vine has been cut down and burned in the fire. You have been angry with us, and we are dying. 17 May you honor the people at your right hand. May you honor the nation you have raised up for yourself. 18 Then we won’t turn away from you. Give us new life. We will worship you. 19 Lord God who rules over all, make us new again. May you be pleased with us. Then we will be saved.

This seems to be a psalm that would be sung at the point of repentance when the people recognise that they are separated from God and that when they are separated from Him all sorts of bad things happen – some caused by their enemies, some they attribute to God – and they can’t make things right on their own.

There’s a refrain that is repeated three times which the NIV translates as “Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved”. Even though I repent I need God to restore me to a right place. And that depends on what Jesus did on the cross. I can’t do that myself.

But the NLT translates the first bit of that refrain as “Turn us again to yourself”. (The Hebrew word “shoo” here means both “return” (as in NIV) or “turn again” (as in NLT).) I found this phrase surprising at first. Surely it’s my responsibility to turn to God. But as I thought about it, I remembered that

  1. If I’m not in a right place in relation to God it’s not because he’s in the wrong place. Restoring me requires turning me around, moving me to where he is.
  2. One of the Holy Spirit’s jobs is to show me my sin (John 16:8) and it’s God who brings me to repentance (Romans 2:4, 2 Timothy 2:25). I can’t even do that on my own. I have to play my part in repenting but its God who brings me to that point.
  3. “Repentance” is literally changing my thinking. Romans 12:1-2 tells me to make myself a “living sacrifice” and to “be transformed by the renewing of my mind”. I need to actively be transformed (passive verb) – God and I need to make that repentance change of mind together. But that should have been obvious: doing it with Him rather than separately from Him is fundamental to that change from sin to son.

When I’m back in that right place, God’s face shines down upon me. Only then will I be saved. How good is that!

Father, renew my mind. Transform me from going my way to your way; from being separate to being with you; to face you as your face shines on me.

Written by David Cornell

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